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Continuous Availability for Power Plant Automation

Dr. Rainer M. Speh


Chief Technology Officer
Instrumentation & Controls Division
Siemens Power Generation





1 Introduction
If you ask power producers just what their key requirements are for instrumentation and control
systems in power plants and for enterprise management, you will nearly always get the same
answer. The right information at the right time and the right place is what they expect, and that
for minimum investment and maintenance costs.

For private use we would seem to have found the answer: the Internet. But in the past few years
this has also started to be used in the automation sector in general and especially in the field of
power plant controls. Almost all I&C suppliers now offer expansions to existing systems to enable
remote use of at least part of the locally available functions. The communication structures used
here are identical with those of the Internet.

To achieve compatibility for the various different functionalities, the existing software systems are
provided with an additional, outer layer. In this context we talk of wrapping. To date there has not
yet been any new development of an I&C system that reflects the basic architecture of the
Internet, the so-called three tier architecture, right from the design stage. The benefits of an
architecture of this kind are obvious. On the one hand, this matches the mainstream of the IT
world and thereby enables seamless integration of enterprise-wide communication. This is an
absolute must for information provision in liberalized energy markets. On the other hand, this
also yields additional benefits for system maintenance and management in terms of low total
cost of ownership.

Siemens Power Generation is proud to present SPPA-T3000, the first web-based power plant
I&C system in the world that is truly worthy of this name.


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2 Generations of Control Systems
In the late 1960s, computers made their debut in power plants. The first application was
a sequence-of-event recorder based on a main frame computer in a nuclear power
plant.

The next generation of computing in power plants was introduced at the end of the
1980s, using local networks that enabled a client/server architecture. This is still the
structure in use in most control systems current today.

With the introduction of the Internet, not only in daily life but also in the business
environment, the third generation of control systems was developed as an extension of
the client/server architecture mentioned above. The resulting system structure would
come to be known in the industry as web-enabled. But it is also a fact that this third
generation of control systems is still made up of a number of different subsystems. This
will ultimately lead to increased maintenance costs in the long run.

The latest trend in general automation as well as in power plant controls is a system
structure called web-based, also known as the fourth generation of control systems.
The cornerstone here is the basic architecture of the Internet with its three tiers: the
presentation, the processing, and the data tier. This configuration is reflected as early as
the system design phase and not added by wrapping existing software as is done for
web-enabled systems. Figure 1 shows the development of the different generations
over the course of the last fifty years.
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Web based
2005
Client / Server Mainframes
1980
1970
1990
Web enabled
1999
1960
Three Tier
Web based
2005
Client / Server Mainframes
1980
1970
1990
Web enabled
1999
1960
Three Tier

Figure 1 Generations of Control Systems

It can essentially be stated that the I&C structures described here for the third and fourth
generations support the trend toward increasing centralization. This applies not only for technical
facilities, but also for organizational structures. A good fifteen years ago, distributed
configurations were all the rage, and now the current trend is more and more back to centralized
structures. One of the reasons for this is surely the enhanced information acquisition and
provision capabilities that are now available. Modern communication networks such as corporate
and public networks provide a real low-cost, reliable platform. Any information, anytime and
anywhere at nearly no cost is not longer a vision, its reality.

In liberalized energy markets an additional factor that is becoming increasingly significant in
addition to the standard considerations of high reliability and a long lifetime for I&C systems is
not merely the input of the maximum amount of data but far rather the input of the right
information and thereby the important information into the decision-making process in good time
and at the right point. This demands not just knowledge of the technical background, but
application-specific know-how and process expertise to separate the important from the
unimportant and enable a meaningful customer-specific solution to be offered. Siemens as a
provider offers the unique combination of being one of the leading power plant equipment
suppliers and at the same time the market leader in the power plant I&C sector. It is thus hardly a
coincidence that this innovative step into the fourth generation was taken by Siemens.
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3 System Overview
3.1 System Structure
SPPA-T3000, the latest power plant I&C system from Siemens Power Generation, is the first
fourth-generation automation system worldwide. Based on experiences gained in over 250 plants
which have been equipped with the web-enabling extension web4txp [1] since 1999, a system
has been completely designed according to three-tier architecture. Figure 2 shows the principle
of the SPPA-T3000 system structure and illustrates how the different tiers are mapped onto a
control system.

Thin













Figure 2 SPPA-T3000 system structure
The uppermost tier is composed of thin clients. In addition to the recommended and tested
devices for the control room, these can be terminal devices of any kind, such as notebooks,
desktop computers or personal digital assistants (PDAs). The only precondition, besides the
communication capabilities via TCP/IP and an operating system, is a browser which supports
J ava applets. No further software installations are necessary for use as an operator terminal,
engineering workplace or diagnostics client. Everything the user needs on his/her front-end
Application
Server
Automation
Server
Clients
I/O Modules
Presentation
Tier
Processing
Tier
Data
Tier
Thin Clients
Presentation
Tier
Processing
Tier
Application Automation
Server Server
(Stratus ftServer) (Simatic S7 400 series)
Data
es
Tier
I/O Modul
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device is uploaded when the central application server is started. This means that no specific
maintenance or update work is required for these applications.

The use of thin clients also makes possible seamless integration in the existing infrastructure of
an enterprise and the use of existing systems without any additional costs. This means that no
specific hardware or software is required for the human-machine interface outside the control
room.

Two different types of servers constitute the middle tier, also known as the processing tier. The
application server is a fault-tolerant server from Stratus Technologies [2]. It is based on a two-
processor design (SMR) and is fully redundant. Its availability is >99.999%. One application
server is required for each plant or machine (unit).

One or more automation servers are used depending on the size of the power plant and the task
to be implemented. These are based on proven hardware from the market leader in automation
engineering, i.e. from the Simatic S7 400 series. This ensures system reliability and longevity of
investment.

The fault-tolerant network which has been tested and utilized over the years takes the form of
open rings and is based on Industrial Ethernet [3]. It is used as a communication network
between thin clients and application servers on the one hand and to automation servers on the
other. Transmission speeds up to 1 GB/s can be realized in line with the currently accepted
standard. Optical or wire-based media are used depending on the switches selected for
implementation.

All I/O modules are assigned to the data tier. Components from the Simatic range which have
been proven over the years are also used here. I/O modules which contain a processing function
are also available. These feature an intrinsic capability for operation under emergency
conditions. The connection of an auto/manual station is a simple operation if required. Special
modules for turbine I&C with processing functions for short cycle times even shorter than 5 ms,
e.g. for position controllers, complete the I/O spectrum.
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All I/O modules are connected to the automation servers via a redundantly configured Profibus
[4], which can be operated at up to 12 MB/s. Both copper wire and fiber-optic cables can be used
as a transmission medium.


3.2 Software Architecture
The software architecture of SPPA-T3000 is illustrated in Figure 3. It conforms to the system
structure shown in Figure 2. The user interfaces are assigned to the presentation tier, the power
services to the processing tier, and the process interfaces to the data tier.




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Figure 3 SPPA-T3000 software architecture

As already explained in the previous section, standard PCs and PDAs can be utilized for the user
interface in the presentation tier as well as the recommended thin clients. The use of different
operating systems and browsers is also possible in theory. However, due to the high distribution
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level of Windows, the use of the most recent version of the software and of Internet Explorer as a
browser is recommended, as this configuration has been tested intensively and released.

The real advantage of the thin client lies in its universality, which permits all functions, such as
operation, engineering and diagnostics, to be performed on one machine. This standard work
environment is referred to as a Workbench and makes an individual work environment possible
on each front-end device.

The majority of the power services are processed on the application server. The design of the
Stratus fault-tolerant server provides a single-system image to both the operating system
(Windows Server 2003) and the applications. This allows for load-and-go simplicity. Applications
achieve unprecedented availability without the need for any modification. Any standard Windows
or Linux application, from integration servers to spreadsheets, can take advantage of this
platform. Applications and subsystems that require high-availability can now utilize a common
approach in the plant. A common approach to availability will reduce both risk and maintenance
costs across your application portfolio reducing your TCO.

The project container constitutes the core of the application server. All the configuration data,
current parameters and status information are stored centrally in a hierarchical file structure in
the form of XML files. Unlike previous systems, the management of redundant data is not
necessary. This design also ensures system-intrinsic data consistency. In theory it also very
easy to make these data available to downstream processing programs independently of the
system, e.g. in the office environment, using additional middleware.

OPC interfaces in server and client versions are also available for the exchange of I&C
information. Other interfaces for the connection of black box applications, e.g. for ash handling,
are provided via additional communication modules and are connected to the network parallel to
the automation servers. Like all other system components, these can also be configured
redundantly.

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The actual web server, the servlets for the representation of plant displays and the various
engineering functions are also components of the application server. These include session and
user management, the report generator and alarm management. All the applications of the
application server are programmed in J ava and are therefore by definition independent of the
hardware and the operating system. This ensures investment security for both the user and the
supplier in the fast-moving world of information technology.

The on-board runtime container is a special feature of the application server. This allows
applications to be generated and tested during plant operation with the help of an easily created
simulation environment without any effect on operation. When testing has been completed
successfully, the new functions can then be loaded in the real-time runtime containers of the
automation servers and executed.

It must be noted here that the load procedure of the automation servers has been drastically
shortened thanks to the modern software architecture. If we take an application comprising 1000
function blocks and 8000 links as an example, it takes a mere 15 seconds for the necessary data
to be loaded into a runtime container, where they can be executed immediately. This procedure
can take minutes or even hours in conventional systems.

Overall it can be said that a very robust design has been achieved through the selected software
architecture. Both the runtime containers and the function blocks, which are known as
automation function instances (AFI) in SPPA-T3000, are software objects which outwardly
exhibit the same basic structure. The containers represent the runtime environment in which the
AFIs can be executed with little or no interaction. Advantages resulting from this structure include
online expansion and modification capabilities. Operating experience with the first plants
implemented in this design has been more than impressive and provides convincing arguments
for this approach.
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4 User Benefits
4.1 Enterprise-wide Information
Increased centralization in organizations and in technology has been one of the megatrends of
the past five years. Driven by enterprise-wide internal networks and the Internet as a global
communication medium, the right information can be supplied to the decision processes in good
time. Technical preconditions include efficient information processing and the thin clients
described above as a front end.

SPPA-T3000 supports this megatrend in a unique way. Thanks to the selected software
architecture and the very powerful user management, different users can be allowed individual
views of the information and the possible action radius of each individual user can be accurately
defined. In addition to the assignment of roles to individual persons, access rights can also be
set up according to process engineering areas. Data inconsistencies become a thing of the past
because only one instance of each item of information is stored in the system. The resulting data
consistency advantages are also apparent in the reduced engineering work load.

The use of open communication standards in the area of wireless communication also opens up
further options. Mobile terminal devices make all information available locally, not only for the
purposes of commissioning but also during operation and troubleshooting. If a suitable
infrastructure is planned, a mobile operator even becomes possible.

Interface to applications in the power plant itself, such as to a computerized maintenance
management system (CMMS), and on the enterprise control level to enterprise resource
planning systems (ERP) can be implemented at any time using SPPA-T3000. The system thus
constitutes the foundation stone for the success of the company by providing the right
information at the right time and in the right place.
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4.2 Total Cost of Ownership
Modern I&C is characterized by the use of accepted industry standards. The advantages offered
by this are obvious (e.g. standardized spare parts management and no necessity for special
maintenance skills). Continual performance improvements in the IT world are an additional
bonus.

The unique software architecture of SPPA-T3000 offers other significant benefits. The
subsystems of present-day I&C systems are completely replaced by a transparent, lean system
structure. The maintenance required for different platforms with different operating systems and
different life cycles finally becomes a thing of the past. The maintenance tasks which are no
longer necessary thanks to the use of thin clients have already been mentioned above.

The hardware architecture of SPPA-T3000 has also been designed using industry standards
including I/O modules and automation servers from Siemens the leader in automation. For the
Application Server the best-of-breed Stratus ftServer was selected for its proven reliability,
operational simplicity, and widespread industrial market acceptance.

Together the functionality and architecture of the SPPA-T3000 system delivers operational
results at the lowest cost.

4.2 Easy to Use
An outstanding feature of SPPA-T3000 is that the system itself is so easy to use. During
operation, any relevant item of information is only ever a mouse click away. The faceplate
navigation bar shown in Figure 4a contains buttons which enable you to go directly to the
various views of the same object. This makes it possible, for example, to jump directly from the
plant display to the function diagram and to the correct place within the diagram. It is important to
mention that the faceplate always remains open and visible for operation. This creates an ideal
work environment for commissioning and troubleshooting.

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Motor
(US Version)
Motor
(European Version)
b) Examples of Faceplates a) Navigation from Faceplates
Select options
Open IC-Diagram
Open Force AF Block
Open Diagnostic View
Open Trend Display
Open Point View
Open Help
Motor
(US Version)
Motor
(European Version)
b) Examples of Faceplates
Motor
(US Version)
Motor
(European Version)
b) Examples of Faceplates a) Navigation from Faceplates
Select options
Open IC-Diagram
Open Force AF Block
Open Diagnostic View
Open Trend Display
Open Point View
Open Help
a) Navigation from Faceplates
Select options
Open IC-Diagram
Open Force AF Block
Open Diagnostic View
Open Trend Display
Open Point View
Open Help


Figure 4 SPPA-T3000 faceplates

The high level of adaptability of the work environment is a further highlight of SPPA-T3000. As
well as being able to display several languages in parallel for different users, colors, time and
date formats and other display characteristics can also be defined for the entire project. Various
libraries are also available for different faceplates and icons. Figure 4b shows the same
faceplate in the US and European styles as an example.


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5 Conclusion
SPPA-T3000, the first fourth-generation I&C system worldwide, was developed especially for the
comprehensive automation of all types of power plant. Its modern web-based architecture allows
it to be integrated seamlessly into the existing infrastructure of power generation companies and
constitutes the perfect basis for enterprise-wide information distribution. The use of off-the-shelf
components ensures that the total cost of ownership remains low. Its high degree of flexibility
permits simple adaptations for projects and also for the individual user. Simplicity of operation,
engineering and diagnostics is an outstanding feature. More than thirty orders within the first nine
months following its sales release and extremely positive customer feedback from the first plants
confirm this. Not only for this reason has SPPA-T3000 already become known as the new
benchmark in controls.


Links

[1] http://www.powergeneration.siemens.com/en/processcontrol/index.cfm

[2] Stratus Technologies engineers and manufactures an ultra-reliable line of fault
tolerant-servers that provide continuous application availability. Stratus

servers offer full


fault-tolerant protection to Windows

and Linux

-based applications. Stratus has been in


business for over 25 years supporting critical Fortune 500 customer applications around
the world. www.stratus.com

[3] http://www.automation.siemens.com/net/html_76/produkte/040_produkte.htm

[4] http://www.profibus.com/

All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective holders.

2006 Siemens AG. All rights reserved.

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